Thursday, March 31, 2005
Participatory media at the Spokesman-Review
Ken Sands, online publisher at the Spokesman-Review, is one of The Media Center's new guest contributors for morph. His paper is beginning to experiment with participatory media, such as recruiting citizen ombudsmen and inviting the public into their morning and afternoon news meetings. I wanted to give this forum a heads-up, because Ken is looking for advice and comments as his paper embarks on this grand adventure, which he talks about in his first post.
Financially modest ideas for saving the newspaper
Milking the newspaper cash cow until she runs dry, the business interests behind huge media corporations are simultaneously sharpening the butcher's knife for her slaughter. Although circulation is declining which, along with rising prices, will eventually cause advertisers to start pulling out, media moguls are reveling in incredible profits, too blindly drunk in their financial success to plan for the future. Some sober journalism specialists have several ideas on how to reverse the process.
Knight Chair in Journalism at the University of North Carolina, Philip Meyer sees a noble journalistic cycle that will eventually lead to profits. In "Saving Journalism," his article on Columbia Journalism Review, he describes how quality journalism attracts readers and advertisers. Papers that emphasize credibility, accuracy, easy reading, and an excellent staff fare better than those who don't. By not providing these four points, Meyer says that papers will undermine their business models.
Grassroots journalism champion Dan Gillmor is working on ways to involve the audience in the news process. He feels that people will pay for quality journalism but that young readers are changing everything, thus requiring those in journalism "to innovate on new forms and delivery mechanisms as well as the journalism itself."
Jay Rosen, journalism professor at New York University, says on PressThink "Getting newspaper journalism across the divide means a big investment now in the Net and its emerging forms." He calls for research and development and the retraining of newsroom staffs.
These sound like good and logical ideas. But are media companies heeding their advice? An article in American Journalism Review suggests that The Washington Post is trying to reverse its circulation decline along the lines of Meyer's suggestions. Its editors feel that the Post has always provided quality news which has helped it establish a sound advertising base, but that the paper was too "fluffy," meaning its articles dragged on to the frustration of the reader. The article reports that the Post is "trying to create a more compelling and accessible paper," with shorter articles and more appealing pictures and graphics as well as revamping the front page. However, this sounds suspiciously like a format change that will eventually change the quality of journalism and cause a loss of advertisers.
Apart from several papers in the US and Korea's OhMyNews marvel, citizens journalism is being ignored by large national papers. Sure, they've established blogs and provided methods of reacting to articles, but have newspapers really embraced these tools? It seems that they are simply there. How often do columnists refer to their reader comments, use information provided by their readers, or even read reader responses? On the other hand, although blogs and other citizens journalism tools are becoming more popular as a source of information, Gillmor rejects the idea that they have the legitimacy to replace traditional journalism. But as their popularity grows and their influence becomes more noted, newspapers will have to find better ways of really including readers, turning the news into the conversation that Gillmor foresees.
As for websites, it is generally agreed that newspapers have poorly adapted themselves to the net (see former posting). Rosen is especially appalled, not only at this fact, but the fact that newspaper companies are cutting their online budgets even as online advertising is booming and millions are shunning print to read their news on the Internet. Instead of simply republishing their printed news online, papers need to find innovative ways to diversify their products, capitalizing on the capabilities the Net offers.
Obviously all of these ideas, along with the fact that advertisers remain hesitant about online advertising, will result in immediate profit loss. But advertisers are starting to catch on and internet advertising is increasing significantly and classified ads are already dominated by the Internet. Media moguls must be weaned off of the cash cow and buck up and invest in online development if they are to survive. By doing this, the profits will eventually come rolling back in.
Posted by john burke on March 31, 2005 at 02:28 PM in c. Multimedia convergence, h. Young readers / New readers, n. Online strategies, q. Regional and ethnic newspapers, r. Revenues and business models | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
India: government may lift newspaper ban
The Financial Times reports that India may change its 50 year old cabinet resolution that continues to ban the publication of foreign newspapers. The Indian minister for information, broadcasting and culture S. Jaipal Reddy said recently at a seminar on the newspaper industry, "Our mind is now not as closed to the publication of foreign newspapers as it has been." An exact date for the lift of the ban has not yet been set.
Source: The Financial Times through paid subscription
Free new tool to monitor blogosphere
Poynteronline reports on a free new tool called PubSub, intended to help monitor the blogosphere and other online information in real time. PubSub scans more than 9 million weblogs, more than 50,000 Internet newsgroups, and all SEC (EDGAR) filings. Journalists can use PubSub in a variety of ways. To name a few, PubSub users can know the moment a topic of interest is mentioned across more than 9 million blogs, determine the extent to which a topic is being discussed across the blogosphere, use the SEC/Edgar filing alert to monitor when a company may go public, or pull updated stats on the size of the searchable blogosphere.
Canada: launch of Metro in Ottawa and free daily in Vancouver
According to Yahoo News and CBC News, two new editions of free dailies will launch in Canada. Metro International S.A., Torstar Corporation and CanWest MediaWorks announced the launch of a Metro edition in Ottawa, the fourth Metro publication to be launched in Canada. Initial Metro daily distribution in the Ottawa region is set at 60,000. Metro in Canada, already distributed in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, enjoys a weekly readership of 1,295,000 and continues to show double-digit growth each year. Quebecor Inc.'s Sun Media Corp. and the private Jim Pattison Group also announced the launch of a free newspaper in Vancouver to take on the competing issue of the Metro launched in Vancouver earlier this month. Like Metro editions, the new Quebecor and Pattison Group paper will have various sections covering local, national, and international news, sports, and entertainment.
Posted by john burke on March 30, 2005 at 04:59 PM in h. Young readers / New readers, k. Circulation and newspaper launches, n. Online strategies, q. Regional and ethnic newspapers | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack
US: Dow Jones predicts more online edition fees
Reuters reports that a Dow Jones executive foresees more U.S. publishers to start charging subscription fees for online versions of their newspapers. The Dow Jone’s The Wall Street Journal is the only national U.S. newspaper to have an online edition virtually entirely composed of paid content and currently has more than 700,000 paid subscribers. President of electronic publishing at Dow Jones Gordon Crovitz said, “It would be good for the industry" for more publishers to follow suit. The publishing industry currently faces the challenge of balancing the potential revenue from required subscription fees versus the revenue from advertisers more attracted by advertising on free websites.
US: free issues of The Post flood NYC streets
The Daily News in New York City reports that The New York Post has been reduced to distributing 50,000 free copies each weekday through desperate efforts to increase circulation numbers. Encased in red plastic bags, most of the free issues delivered free of charge in the greater metropolitan area, even to non-subscribing precipitants or to vacant construction sites, remain unread each day. The Post plans on counting the number of freebies, which may reach as many as 1.5 million copies over a six-week period, as part of its “paid circulation.” Such a practice is sometimes accepted under an industry rule known as “third party sales,” as long as the practice is not abused. The New York Post is owned by the Rupert Murdoch News Corporation.
Source: The Daily News
German firm to launch tabloid in Western Europe
According to The Telegraph, German press giant Axel Springer plans to rejuvenate the sleepy European newspaper industry by introducing a tabloid red-top similar to The Sun and the Daily Mirror. The firm launched a racy daily in Poland in 2003 called Fakt, which has since reached a circulation of over 500,000. Following the firm's recent success in Poland, Axel Springer now hopes to target Spain, Italy, France and Scandinavia, with France being the most likely first target. While the main dailies in France face increasing declines in finances and readership, currently British style tabloids are relatively non-existent.
Source: The Telegraph
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
US: the dying newspaper, wimpy websites, and the democratic crisis
"I've been involved with newspapers, in some form or another, for a quarter century. If I don't see a compelling reason to read them, why should anyone else?" Found at ABC News, veteran columnist Michael S. Malone's damning editorial about the future of the newspaper supports recent predictions of print's demise with experienced opinion, opinion which is quick to dismiss the newspaper as a sustainable medium. Malone describes how he and many of his colleagues have grown so accustomed to the convenience, immediacy, and customizing of Internet news that they don't think that print subscriptions make sense anymore. And although he admits that he gets most of his news online, Malone doesn't feel that established, well-respected publications are using the Internet to its fullest capabilities, an opinion in which he certainly does not stand alone.
Nora Paul at Online Journalism Review joins Malone in an insightful analysis of the "promises" that online news held ten years ago at "New News," a Poynter Institute seminar, and the "reality" of what those promises have become. She basically writes that although some of the "promises," which range from a "Limitless Newshole" to "Communication between reporter and reader" to "New Expressive reporting styles," have been somewhat fulfilled, the majority remained unattained, leaving newspaper websites drab and boring. Seeing that most online versions of major publications are simply re-hashings of, if not the same content as the print edition, Paul concludes that "New methods for crafting and delivering compelling news stories online are still a long way from being fully developed."
Malone doesn't even give papers this benefit of the doubt. He forecasts that by the end of the decade, 90% of print publications will be out of business because they will be unable to adapt themselves to the current technological revolution. "Before it is over, the number of "newspapers" left in America will probably be less than 10 - and they might not be individual papers but rather new entities created out of the current large chains." This anticipated conglomeration of the newspaper industry is perhaps the most dangerous prediction, but seems more and more feasible as news corporations cut staff and ignore investments in their websites in order to maintain high profits, giving their shareholders their quick financial fix but destroying the quality and future of their publications.
This is reflected in experienced reporter and editor Davis Merritt's book, "Knightfall: Knight Ridder and How the Erosion of Newspaper Journalism is Putting Democracy at Risk." Merritt is also skeptical about the survival of the printed word, but says that for the sake of democracy, newspaper style journalism is necessary. As cited on the Indy Star book review, "When citizens don't have access to relevant information 'and do not have an active agora in which to act upon their values, democracy is left in the hands of insiders and special interests." So essentially, if local papers disappear and national papers are sucked up by one or two large organizations, as Malone predicts, there could be a serious democratic crisis.
Keeping that in mind, let's look at Jack Shafer's article about billionaire Philip Anschutz's bold media moves in the US. Having patented his Examiner label in 70 cities across the country and having recently started a free paper of that name in the Washington D.C. area, Shafer asks why Anschutz decided to break into a dying print media in which his profits will probably not rise above 6%. Looking into his past, Shafer notes that Anschutz's companies laid much of the fiber-optic cable across the country and predicts that the free paper, which he delivers to rich neighborhoods, is simply the first step in plans to begin coast to coast Examiner websites.
If this prediction turns out to be true, the democratic crisis could be worse than Merritt thinks. Imagine, Anschutz creates innovative websites that go light years beyond the feeble special features and lacking interactivity that today's major news sites provide to become the most popular Internet news source. In the meantime, major publishers' lack of foresight in their digital divisions as highlighted by Paul renders them incapable of competing with Anschutz. They watch their 30% profits plummet and their companies go under, as Malone predicts. What's left? One great, big, ugly monopoly of an online news corporation that not only controls the information you read, but also strangles the freedom and democracy that the internet is designed to champion.
Zimbabwe: blogger goes where the media can't
Media Guardian gives a link to a brave Zimbabwean blogger who is able to report on events surrounding the upcoming controversial elections that traditional foreign media aren't able to attend. The elections are predicted to be heavily rigged and the press has been severely restricted. Following in the footsteps of the Baghdad Blogger, bloggers in Iran, and those recently reported on in Nepal, Zimbabwe's Sokwanele blog is opening Western eyes to political repression in a way that the traditional media can not.
Source: Media Guardian